October 18, 2001

Peeking Through the Fourth Wall

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In many respects, merely describing theatre as an art form is to say too little about its true nature. Indeed, theatre is not as simple to define as sculpture, literature or music. Theatre is the conglomeration of all of these and more, the synthesis of several other art forms. From the set, the lighting, music, and costumes to a show’s direction, cast, and script, theatrical productions appeal to a variety of our senses.

However, caution must be taken when attempting to describe theatre as a purely sensory exercise. That definition seems to fall flat on its face when one considers the many forms theatre has taken on over the ages. Today’s world is privy to operatic pieces, straight plays, ballet, kabuki, and one-acts to name just a few. We have representational pieces, presentational productions, and even shows that encourage and incorporate audience participation.

So the question remains: what is theatre? Perhaps the answer is best found in the experience itself. The great bebop saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker once said that if you have to ask what jazz is, then you’ll never know. Similarly, if you’re like me and can’t give a concise and clear definition of theatre, you’re best off attending a show and feeling it out for yourself. If you’re lucky, you’ll leave changed — literally.

So, if you’re in the mood for an engaging theatrical experience, you can rest assured that you’ll have no trouble finding a venue. Ithaca is the theatrical hot spot of the Finger Lakes region, and the following are just a few of the primary theatrical companies operating right outside of our front doors.

The Kitchen Theatre Company

Though the Kitchen Theatre itself only seats 73 audience members, the company has maintained an ambitious roster of shows since it began with Sam Shepard’s Buried Child in 1992. Tickets range in price from $13.50 to $15 and rush tickets are available to students for approximately $6 if the house isn’t full. The theatre is located in the historic Clinton House in downtown Ithaca, at 116 N. Cayuga St. The Clinton House is also home to the Ithaca Ticket and Information Center, the one stop shop for local theatre information and news. For more information call 272-0403.

Brand X Theatre Company

The Brand X Musical Theatre Company was founded in 1995 and has since produced two shows a year. Since its initial show, the company has remained the sole student group at Cornell to be completely devoted to musical theatre. Recent productions have included You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown (’00-’01) and A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (’01-’02). For more information, including ticket prices and show dates, visit them on the web at www.rso.cornell.edu/brandx or email them at [email protected].

The Firehouse Theatre

Located just west of the Commons on State Street, the Firehouse Theater offers area audiences a unique opportunity to experience regional shows year-round. Offering one play a month, the Firehouse Theater operates on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings. For an updated list of show titles, dates, and ticket prices call 277-PLAY.

The Hangar Theatre

If you’ve ever driven north on Route 89, you may have noticed the airplane hangar on the right side of the road just a little past Cass Park. You may also have noticed that there are no planes to be seen. That’s because the space is in actuality home to the Hangar Theatre, a company that operates primarily June through August. If you’re ever in Ithaca over the summer, the Hangar Theatre offers several productions for all ages and inclinations. For tickets call 273-4497.

Ithaca College Theatre Arts

With a season running from September through May, IC Theatre Arts offers a huge variety of theatrical events throughout the year. From opera and dance to musical theater and plays, IC Theatre Arts has something for everyone. For information call 274-3920.

Cornell Theatre Arts

With a new, modern facility located just off of Cornell’s campus in Collegetown, Cornell Theatre Arts is one of Ithaca’s primary sources of theatrical entertainment. An extremely eclectic mix of productions, along with the inclusion of professional, regional, and student actors, make CTA shows some of the most popular in town, and indeed, in the Finger Lakes region. For an updated list of shows and for ticket information call 254-ARTS.

Archived article by Nate Brown